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Chesapeake Energy has quarterly net loss on writedowns

Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney
Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney

By Anna Driver

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp reported a net loss on Thursday compared with a year-ago profit, as low natural gas prices caused the U.S. oil and gas company to write down the value of some assets.

Chesapeake, which has large exposure to weak natural gas prices, has pledged to sell about $14 billion in assets this year to cut its debt and improve liquidity. The company is also drilling for pricier crude oil and natural gas liquids.

The company said in its third-quarter earnings report that it is pursuing the sale of some of its properties in the Eagle Ford basin in south Texas and expects a joint venture for its acreage in the Mississippi Lime in Oklahoma and Kansas to be announced by the end of the year.

Still, some investors and analysts expected more details on the company's plans for next year after big investors Carl Icahn and Mason Hawkins took control of the nine-member board of directors in June.

The new board was seated following a series of Reuters investigations that raised questions about potential conflicts of interest on the part of Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon. There has also been an investigation into alleged collusion over land prices.

"I'm surprised there was not more color around 2013," said Mark Hanson, oil and gas analyst at Morningstar. "But I think the Eagle Ford sale clues you in. They are probably going to be selling more non-core assets."

The company left its spending forecast for 2013 largely unchanged, but said its board continues to review strategy.

Chesapeake shares fell 2.8 percent to $19.50 in trading after the close of the New York Stock Exchange.

Chesapeake's daily production rose 24 percent from a year ago to average 4.142 billion cubic feet equivalent. The amount of oil and natural gas liquids it produced daily rose 10 percent from the second quarter to 143,000 barrels.

Even so, the company's share of production from natural gas was a hefty 79 percent in the quarter, a period when the average natural gas price for delivery at Henry Hub fell 32 percent from a year-ago as large supplies weighed in.

"They simply can't turn off the gas," Morningstar's Hanson, said. "I don't think they are out of the woods in terms of gas price."

The loss in the third quarter was $2.1 billion, or $3.19 cents per share, compared with a profit of $879 million, or $1.23 cents per share a year earlier.

Excluding items, Chesapeake had a profit of 10 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 10 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chesapeake Energy Corp said earlier on Thursday that it is working with banks to issue $2 billion in debt to pay off more-expensive loans on its bloated balance sheet.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company said it is setting up a five-year term loan facility and would use the proceeds to pay off a $4 billion loan it obtained in May of this year, as well as other debt.

The May loan was a lifeline at the time when the company was staring at a funding shortfall of about $10 billion. So far this year, Chesapeake has sold about $12 billion of its assets.

(Reporting By Anna Driver; Editing by David Gregorio and Andre Grenon)

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